SPORT / SOCCER
Stars leaving the Chinese Super League not taking step down
Published: Jan 07, 2021 07:23 PM

Alex Teixeira of Jiangsu Suning Photos: VCG

There is an argument that the Chinese Super League is losing some of its luster. 

The league, which came to global prominence in 2016 with the arrival of big name players for even bigger transfer fees, has started to see those global names abandon ship.

It is a far cry from those recent transfer windows when Hulk arrived from Zenit Saint Petersburg in ­Russia, Oscar and Ramires from Chelsea in the English Premier League and even Alex Teixeira - a reported target of Liverpool - was prized away from Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk.

The times, as Bob Dylan, once sang, are a changing, as CSL clubs are no longer the attractive ­proposition that they were in the past as ­salary caps, transfer restrictions and ­financial sustainability have forced rethinks for clubs, agents and players.

Teixeira has reportedly chosen to sign for Saudi side Al Hilal rather than stay in China. 

The Brazilian forward, who guided Jiangsu Suning to their first CSL title with a win over 2019 champions Guangzhou Evergrande, was soon to be eligible to naturalize as Chinese, and represent Li Tie's side in their upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers, but has resisted the urge.

Hulk of Shanghai SIPG

He follows Hulk out of the CSL, with the former Porto man looking for a new club having walked away from Shanghai SIPG at the end of his contract.

Shandong Luneng's Graziano Pelle has done the same having helped his side to a Chinese FA Cup win for his first silverware in four and a half years in China.

It is not necessarily bad for the 35-year-old former Italy international's career. 

Pelle has so far been linked with a move to Serie A giants Juventus and Inter Milan this month, further proof that a move to the CSL is not the end of a footballer's shelf life in bigger leagues elsewhere.

That is good news for Pelle and for Stephan el Shaarawy, who is expected to leave Shanghai Shenhua soon, and there are plenty of examples for them to follow overseas, for while Chinese football is losing some of its shine, its departing stars need not. 

Graziano Pelle of Shandong Luneng

Robinho - Guangzhou Evergrande

The former Brazil forward had won the league in South China before signing for Atletico Mineiro back home in February 2016.  

He was the nation's top scorer that season with 25 goals and helped his side to the state championship in 2017.  

Robinho then moved to Turkey, first with Sivasspor and then Istanbul Basaksehir, helping the latter to their first Turkish Super Lig title in the 2019-20 season. 

The forward controversially returned to Brazil with Santos last ­October but has since been released, with the player said to be ­concentrating on his sentence for sexual assault from his time in Italy with AC Milan.

Jo - Jiangsu Suning

The forward had been a figure of fun at times in his career, not least during his time in a Brazil shirt when they hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but he returned from China reborn. 

In November, 2016, Jo re-signed for Corinthians and refound his ­scoring touch, particularly against local rivals. Jo helped Corinthians to the 2017 Brazilian Serie A championship and the Sao Paolo state title.

Yannick Carrasco - Dalian Yifang

The Belgian forward arrived in China ahead of the 2018 season and was at the club as Belgium finished third in that summer's FIFA World Cup in Russia. 

His time in Dalian ended last January and he returned to former club Atletico Madrid. 

Since then he notably scored the only goal in their win over Barcelona earlier this season and the side are top of the table and favorites to win the Primera Liga title as both Barcelona and city rivals Real Madrid struggle.

Axel Witsel - Tianjin Quanjian

A Belgium international teammate of Carrasco, Witsel left Chinese football as his Tianjin Quanjian side began to unravel on and off the field.

He returned to Europe with German Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund where the midfielder has become one of the best rated players in the league. 

Silverware has so far been in short supply, with only the 2019 DFL-­Supercup to show for his efforts, but there could be more on the way with talents such as Jadon Sancho, Erling Braut Haaland and Youssoufa Moukoko finding their feet in the famous black and yellow.

Vagner Love - Shandong Luneng

The well-traveled Brazilian has stood out in most of the leagues he has called home and not just for his trademark colored braids. 

Love left China in February 2015 and returned home with Corinthians. 

Success came in the form of the ­national Serie A title in 2015 and the Sao Paolo state title in 2019, either side of playing for Monaco in France's Ligue 1 and a Turkish Super Lig golden boot while at Alanyaspor. 

Since then, the goalscorer moved to Kazakhstan's ­Kairat and helped them to last season's Premier League crown.

Carlos Tevez - Shanghai Shenhua



To say that Tevez was a controversial figure during his time in the Chinese Super League would be an understatement but no matter his off-pitch attitude and on-pitch absence in Shanghai, Carlitos has proved that it was not permanent. 

He returned to his boyhood love Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires for a third time in January 2018 much to the dismay of anyone who had seen him pile on the pounds on his waistline and pile on the dollars in his bank account in the CSL. 

Since then, he has been the wild-eyed dynamo that earned him cult status at club's around the world, helping the club to Primera Division title wins in 2018.


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